4b/2017: Fiscal Federalism and responsibility from a comparative perspective: translating a financial principle into practice through legal instruments (PhD-project)
The PhD project investigates the principle of financial responsibility from a comparative and legal perspective. Case studies are Germany (i.e. the Länder) and Spain (i.e. the Autonomous Communities of common regime).
From a political point of view, financial responsibility is a fundamental component of any decentralizing process. From an economic perspective, it is a precondition for efficiency. Therefore, financial responsibility becomes the cornerstone of all compound States. At the same time, the “welfare state” model calls for a system in which autonomy and solidarity shall coexist.
Against this background, second-generation theories of fiscal federalism underpin the concept of “fiscal responsibility at the margin” and advocate for, at least, partial responsibility of subnational entities on the revenue side. The idea builds on the argument that entities entrusted with own financing powers tend to be politically more responsible to their citizens. This is due to the assumption that financial responsibility through democratic control serves as a tool to strengthen political autonomy itself.
The theoretical construct is well reflected in the selected case-studies, as it has been the trajectory for the Spanish reform in 2009, as well as for the reform under discussion in Germany.
Moving from the theoretical paradigm of “fiscal responsibility at the margin” to legal practice, the need to observe how and to what extent revenue is distributed among and within the different layers of governments emerges. The major issue at stake is the revenue structure of the intermediate tier of government, paying particular attention to the legal tools and procedures devoted to revenue-sharing, as all these elements play a great role in defining the extent of financial autonomy on the revenue side.
After some preliminary remarks on the background theories governing the scenario and on the essential features of the selected case-studies, the investigation focuses on the principle of financial responsibility as embedded in the legal frameworks and developed through constitutional jurisprudence. Then, it scrutinizes, classifies and compares the legal tools, which put the principle into practice. The ultimate aim is to provide a comparative measurement and assessment of these instruments, in order to estimate the existing margin of responsibility vested in the intermediate level of government, that is, the autonomous Communities and the Länder. In doing so, the system of intergovernmental financial relations will be taken into consideration paying attention to both the “law in books” and the “law in action”. This approach is pivotal for understanding the way in which these systems function.
A paper on the PhD topic (with the title "Financial constitutions and responsibility at the margin: from legal framework to practice") has been awarded the IFÖ Preis 2016 for studies on federalism and regionalism (IFÖ Innsbruck and Konferenz der österreichischen Landtagspräsidenten). Another paper on a related topic (with the title Financial constitutions and responsibility at the margin: from legal framework to practice) has been awarded on November 2016 in Delhi the Ronald Watts Young Researcher Award 2016, from the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies (IACFS).
A volume with the title "Federalismo fiscale e responsabilizzazione politico-finanziaria. Comparazione giuridica ed esercizi di misurazione del diritto" will be published in Italian language, presenting the main results of the study.
The project will expire at the end of 2017.